Part Eight

Posted By on September 4, 2007

“Musical Theater and Musical Museums”

.: One of the things I noticed during the first day in London was the plethora of advertisements for stage musicals. Lord Of The Rings: The Musical? Sure. Gone With The Wind: The Musical? Yep. Glengarry Glen Ross: Dramatic Dance Interpretation? Why not.

Lord of the Rings Musical: The Cash-In

.: Oscar and I didn’t hate ourselves enough to buy tickets to the musical adaptation of Dirty Dancing, but we did want to experience some theater before we left London. We arrived too late the other day to see the interior of Bill Shakespeare’s house, so we decided to see The Complete Works of William Shakespeare*.

.: We had an hour to kill before the show, so we went to an American-style ’50s diner, mostly out of curiosity, but also because I occasionally have an intense desire for apple pie. Oscar foolishly ordered puh-caan pie, to which the server responded: “You mean pee-CAN pie? We don’t serve puh-caan pie here.” He was attempting an American accent, but I found his performance a little off. Pecan pie is primarily a southern dish, and my grandmother — with her comically conspicuous East Texan accent — says puh-caan pie. Had he said, “You mean New Orleans Pecan Pie?” he would have scored some points. He redeemed himself when a charming British girl sat next to us and ordered her hamburger charred. “Charred? What the hell is that? We don’t char things here in America. You wan’ it well-done?”

.: I thought about introducing myself to the young lass, but I remembered the grotesque face-beast slowly hatching from my lip. Talking to girls with a cold sore can be a difficult thing; nothing screams “avoid me, I’m diseased!” louder than visible symptoms of disease.

.: The server himself was a bit of a dick to his coworkers; I’m not entirely convinced it was part of an act. Every order was repeated to the cook and appended with a motivational “Fatty” or “Porky.” “Two burgers and fries, Fatty.” “Hurry up with their pie, Porky.” “If you take any longer I’ll blind your other eye, Lumpy.”

To counter a growing theft problem, all books were attached to balls and chains and transformed into 800 lb. brass benches.

.: The play itself was good fun, but there’s not much else I can say without simply summarizing the plot. (Every now and then I’ll regret not seeing Desperately Seeking Susan: The Musical instead, but I get over it.)

.: Earlier in the day we went to the Tate Modern and the British Library. I mention this only because I just realized the two preceding stories have only one picture between them, and I want this post saturated with photographs like the other posts.

.: The British Library, I learned, legally must receive a free copy of every item published in Britain. Reading rooms are available for anyone who would like to read and research, so long as they provide a proof of signature and a valid permanent address. None of the notices mentioned anything about where the permanent address had to be located, but we assumed it meant permanent British address. Not that we were left without our choice of adventures: there was a book conservation workshop and a free exhibit of various holy manuscripts, both open to everyone.

And what would happen if I attempted to enter at 2:05? What then, Mr. Guard?

.: Curiously, while admission for the Sacred books exhibit was free, you still needed a ticket to enter. A man dressed like a secret service agent stopped us at the doorway and pointed to the ticket desk. We walked all three steps to table, grabbed a ticket each, walked back, and handed them to the guard. Why all that was necessary I do not know. I suppose they needed a way to track the number of visitors, but a simple hand tally counter would perform the same task much less expensively. Or maybe the man was simply the British equivalent of a Wal-Mart greeter, only instead of being there to meet you with a cordial “Hi!” he exists solely to inconvenience you slightly.

.: The exhibit understandably prohibited photography, so I don’t recall much about the manuscripts. I will say the handwriting was astonishingly beautiful. Seeing how carefully these people wrote, even when scribbling what were essentially notes in the margins, has inspired me to write my class notes much more clearly.

.: Interesting note about Korans: in 1997 the Taliban banned paper bags based on concerns that stray Korans might make their way into the recycled paper. One wonders if there’s a minimum allowance for Koranic material in other items. Surely using a whole page of the Koran is off limits, but what about smaller portions? Maybe a corner of a page? A scraping? How far down does one have to go until something which was part of a Koran can be used in something else? A fiber? An atom? What are the odds that a carbon atom from Julius Caesar’s last breath found its way into a tree that was chopped down and processed into a Koran? Further still, what are the odds that the same carbon atom was jostled from the slightest touch of a finger, floated around the atmosphere for a few decades, then found its way into a bacterium that inhabited the toilet used by Stanislav Shmulevich to deface another Koran? Why isn’t science tackling these questions?

.: The Tate Modern had an exhibit on Dali that cost money I wasn’t willing to spend, so instead I flipped through a couple books on surrealism and discovered some unfamiliar artists, like this Roland Penrose fellow.

.: I probably have a naive appreciation of art, because most of it bores me. Surrealism is the only art movement that consistently fascinates me. I think that’s mainly due to the instant payoff of the paintings. What’s with these elephants and their disproportionately long legs? Why is there a train emerging from a fireplace? Holy shit, was that her real eyeball?! I think there is only one appropriate answer to each of these questions: “Who cares? It looks cool.”

.: In fact, Dali said as much in this quote I felt compelled to photograph:

My own works… are anti-artistic and direct, moving and instantly comprehensible without the least technical preparation… There is no need… for preliminary explanations, for preliminary ideas, for judgements. It is enough merely to look at them with pure eyes.

[‘My Pictures at the Autumn Salon’, October 1927]

.: I may not have the most refined tastes, but surrealism has an immediate appeal that’s profoundly lacking in crap like this and this. When viewing the first link, do you find yourself contemplating the “surface, texture, grain and luminosity rather than spatial composition,” or are you thinking, “This is a god damn white wall.”?

.: One interesting feature was the various Tate Tracks listening stations throughout the museum. The museum invites a musician to tour the place, find an art piece they like, and compose a song about it. Then you can listen to the song in the museum or on their needlessly complicated website. That is, unless the song is by The Chemical Brothers, in which case all you can do is read about it. Even more interesting is this song by The Landscapers. You can play the song, but they won’t show you the images that inspired it due to “copyright restrictions.” Still, it’s an interesting idea; let’s hope they learn how to properly expand upon it.

Next: Paris, France

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight

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